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Writers, Readers, and ReputationsLiterary Life in Britain 1870-1918$
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Philip Waller

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199541201

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199541201.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 December 2021

The Great Tradition

The Great Tradition

(p.175) 5 The Great Tradition
Writers, Readers, and Reputations

Philip Waller (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The idea of a ‘Great Tradition’ in English literature, made famous in F. R. Leavis's book of that title in 1948, had 19th-century origins in the concern of many critics — among them Henry James and Leslie Stephen — to distinguish superior from inferior literature and to define a canon of works of permanent value. This was considered a patriotic as well as educative duty. However, the membership and pecking order of the canon caused much debate; and its constituents looked different in 1918, not only from Leavis's in 1948, but from those on whom critics could agree in 1870 or 1900. The assessment made of writers in The Dictionary of National Biography provides one such measure. This chapter draws on a variety of sources to explain the changing appreciations over the period that occurred in respect of Jane Austen, Robert Browning, Dickens, George Eliot, George Meredith, Ruskin, Sir Walter Scott, Swinburne, Tennyson, Thackeray, and Trollope.

Keywords:   great Tradition, canon, dictionary of National Biography

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